Agile eLearning: Embracing Agile When Developing Elearning 

Nimble organizations will win the day. Their ability to pivot quickly, and embrace favorable trends, technologies, and techniques make them more likely to triumph over their competitors. And it is that model that training-focused organizations must adapt in today’s remote work environment. Agile eLearning offers a solution.

EMBRASING AGILE IN ELEARNING DEVELOPMENT

Many organizations today employ dispersed workforces, working remotely – either independently or as part of a team. Developing eLearning courses in such environments is challenging. The “do more with less” mindset has led many businesses to rely on fixed-fee contractors and freelancers to supplement high-cost in-house expertise.

Remote workforces rely on their employees being trained and ready with the knowledge and skills required to pivot quickly. However, given the backdrop of the realities of today’s virtual workforce, developing training programs that respond to the needs of nimble organizations is a challenge.

And that’s how embracing Agile for eLearning development helps!

AGILE EXPLAINED

The objective of eLearning training developers is to produce informative, engaging, and immersive courses. To meet the needs of today’s dynamic and diverse workplace requires the development of these courses quickly and seamlessly to address the rapidly changing training needs of the organization. That’s what Agile development for eLearning is all about.

The Agile training development methodology reorganizes typical eLearning development frameworks, such as Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation (ADDIE) and Successive Approximation Model (SAM), to inject ease, efficiency, and experience into the process, without compromising on quality.

At the heart of the Agile approach for eLearning development is the concept of developing and implementing courses in small-sized incremental chunks in a matter of weeks, instead of producing the whole course in many months. Highlights of the Agile eLearning approach include:

  • Broad-based stakeholder inputs and consultation
  • Incremental development in short bursts
  • Frequent review and refinement processes

Because today’s workforce has continually evolving training needs, by using Agile methodologies for eLearning, eLearning developers can roll out training courses that more closely reflect those needs. As opposed to waiting for six to eight months to confirm if the course meets designated requirements, stakeholders know within weeks if that’s the case. If not, Agile L&D teams quickly pivot their focus to address training development gaps from the prior iteration.

AGILE ELEARNING MECHANICS

So, how does Agile eLearning work in the real world of developing remote learning courses? Well, there are many “flavors” of Agile out there, with each organization customizing the base methodology to fit their own training development frameworks. However, the core of the Agile training development methodology revolves around an iterative 4-step process.

STEP#1: A MEETING OF THE MINDS

At the outset, all stakeholders meet to agree on the scope of the training program. The reason we’re stressing “all”, is because some of the Waterfall methodologies (ADDIE and SAM), typically compartmentalize stakeholder engagement based on the phase of development. Agile is different. The meeting-of-the-minds includes trainers, developers, L&D specialists, HR and Training Managers, and learner representatives.

At these meetings, called Scrums, all participants bring their ideas, requirements, and concerns to the table. Through mutual agreement, the stakeholders develop an outline of the course.

STEP#2: DECONSTRUCTING THE OUTLINE

Next, the team breaks down the whole course into smaller chunks. For instance, the team may deconstruct a course on Company Workplace Safety & Security, which would typically take 6-months to develop, into smaller segments. So, for example, the first “chunk” might be “Firefighting 101”, and another might be “First Aid” and the third “Administering CPR”.

All participants agree on what each aspect of the “mini-course” will be. Because the Agile approach for eLearning development treats each chunk as a separate “project” and developed independent of the other modules/chunks, this agreement is crucial.

STEP#3: DEVELOP ELEARNING

The development team now focuses on one specific module (or feature). The unit of measure for developing each module is known as a Sprint. Each sprint, which typically lasts for a few weeks, results in the development, testing, and rollout of a fully functional module of the course. The team will not initiate the next Sprint – development of the next module – until all stakeholders are satisfied with the current module.

STEP#4: SIGNOFF and MOVE TO NEXT SPRINT

The stakeholder group reviews the progress of one sprint and gives great weight to lessons learned from each iteration. Agile methodologies for eLearning work best when developers defer any process improvements highlighted into the next Sprint. With each subsequent iteration, the development of the full/final course comes closer to completion.

ADOPTING AGILE ELEARNING FOR COUSE DEVELOPMENT NEEDS

Training-focused organizations with remote workforces, who embrace Agile eLearning, find that they are better able to address the changing needs for training their workforces. For instance, if municipal standards for occupational health and safety change mid-stream while developing the “Firefighting 101” module, because that module is self-contained, the eLearning development team can incorporate the changes quickly into the training content. And, because “First Aid” has not yet been “sprinted”, the team can discuss statutory changes more effectively, and approve them during the design Scrum for the next Sprint.

The keys to successful adoption of ADDIE include:

  • Identifying all stakeholder groups, and bringing them into the discussion earlier on
  • Ensuring Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are designated to support training developers at every stage of the design process
  • A team of actual end-users – and not developers – help test each module when it has completed the development cycle

TEAM DYNAMICS

Whether your adaptation of Agile development for eLearning is successful also depends on how you organize your Agile team. For example, the Scrum Master is the defacto project lead. The Scrum Master doesn’t have to be an eLearning developer. Nor does he/she have to be a professional trainer – though that helps. However, because of the powerful role they play in influencing other team members, organizations must choose her/them carefully.

INTEGRATING ORGANIZATIONAL BEST PRACTICES

The Agile methodology is a broad framework of eLearning development – it does not replace an organization’s existing training development policies and procedures. So, if your existing internal controls review course content prior to rollout – e.g.: Legal, Compliance, Safety, Engineering standards, etc. – Agile for eLearning development does not seek to replace those controls. In fact, those controls must be part of the organization’s Agile initiative.

AIM FOR FUNCTIONAL, NOT IDEAL

Finally, one of the biggest reasons that Agile initiatives fail, is because stakeholders aim for the ideal. In doing so, they continually delay Sprints, in the hope of achieving 100% perfection, resulting in an Agile roll-out that’s akin to ADDIE timelines. Agile is about incremental improvements. To embrace Agile eLearning successfully in your corporate training development projects, sponsors must resist the temptation of aiming for the ideal in the very first Sprint.

Want to know more about the Agile process? Get my Agile ELearning Development book and start developing your courses the Agile way!

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